Tea is appreciated for its good taste and soothing qualities, but innumerable studies have shown its great medicinal value. The health benefits of tea include detoxifying body, weight loss, boosting immunity and mental alertness, preventing heart diseases and arthritis, managing diabetes, and delaying the aging process. It also helps prevent hair loss, fight fatigue, depression, and treat dental issues.
What is Tea?
Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared using the leaves of tea plant scientifically known as Camellia sinensis. It is usually prepared by pouring hot or warm water over the tea leaves. Tea is graded on the basis of flavor and taste, which mainly comes from an alkaloid called tannin. It is also graded on the basis of the size of the leaves, cut, grains, and a few other factors that determine its price on the market. The major types of tea are white tea, green tea, oolong tea, yellow tea, and black tea. The difference between them is the degree to which the leaf is oxidized or fermented.
It is believed that Chinese were the first to use it as a beverage and discover its medicinal values. They considered it as a tonic that could stop aging, promote youth and vitality, and ensured a long life, which is why only the noble descendants were allowed to drink it and the beverage was kept secret for a long time. After it was introduced to the world, it became an important part of the culture in many countries, played a major role in ceremonies, caused the formation of trade routes, and even started revolutions!
Tea is a low-calorie beverage, with only 2 calories per serving with no carbohydrate, protein, or fat. Many of the health benefits of tea are due to flavonoids which act as antioxidants. The most important flavonoids are catechins, specifically epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Tea also contains rich phytochemicals called methylxanthines like theophylline, caffeine, and theobromine, which boost metabolism and cause fat burning.
Health Benefits of Tea
The health benefits of tea include the following:
The antioxidants in tea can prevent free radicals (oxidants) from damaging the metabolic, circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems through oxidation. Green or white tea, when supplemented with lemon/lime juice is supposed to be more beneficial in this regard.
The polyphenols in tea boost cell turnover, which reverses signs of skin aging like wrinkles, loss of moisture, photoaging, and roughness. It can also significantly slow down the aging process to help delay the loss of vision, macular degeneration, loosening of muscles, and other conditions induced by aging.
Many studies have proved that tea is rich in polyphenols such as catechins and flavonoids. These polyphenols have antioxidant properties and are effective in preventing the growth of tumors and cancers, particularly of the liver, intestines, prostate, kidneys, breasts, and lungs. The alkaloids like tannin and caffeine also help in inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells.
The recent research draws a link between the consumption of tea and the risk of depression. It was observed that those who consumed three cups daily were far less likely to suffer from depression.
Boosts Mental Alertness
Tea has polyphenols and caffeine content that helps stimulate the brain and improve focus. An amino acid called L-theanine present in tea also increases alertness of the brain.
Tea is a great energizer and the alkaloids, tannin, and caffeine present in it are very fast-acting and efficient natural stimulants. Drinking it gives immediate relief from fatigue.
Improves Cognitive Function
Tea aids in relieving symptoms of various neurogenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
Tea is a stress reliever, gives temporary relief from nervous disorders and induces a good, healthy feeling in the body and mind.
Boosts Immune System
The antioxidants present in tea help strengthen the immune system. Alkaloids like tannin and caffeine are powerful disinfectants and have high antimicrobial, antiviral, and germicidal properties. That is why the beverage helps in relieving fever and preventing infections.
Note: All alkaloids (tannin, caffeine, nicotine, strychnine, etc.) are actually poisons, either mild or harsh, for living cells. If consumed in a concentrated form or in high doses, they can be fatal for humans. However, when consumed in very low dosages, they kill only the germs.
Lower Caffeine Levels
Studies have shown that those who regularly drank hot tea had slimmer waists and lower body mass index (BMI) than those who did not. Scientists attribute the weight loss effect to the fact that the drinking this beverage regularly can lower the risk of metabolic syndrome and help you keep your weight in check. Drinking a hot brew also reduces the effect of the stress hormone, cortisol, which could contribute to belly fat.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Tea stimulates the metabolism, which results in faster breaking down of sugar and lowering of its level in the blood. This way, it releases energy and also helps diabetics manage their blood sugar levels.
Prevents Heart Disease
Those who consumed at least three cups a day showed a reduction in the risk of various cardiovascular diseases like coronary heart disease, cardiac death, and stroke.
Studies show that drinking tea coupled with a low-fat diet can decrease the levels of LDL cholesterol.
Reduces Risk of Arthritis
Polyphenols in tea can reduce inflammation, and make it less likely for regular drinkers to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
Improves Eye Health
The flavonoids in tea protect against eye disease like cataracts, macular degeneration, and certain types of glaucoma. The flavonoid gallocatechin forms a protective layer on the retina to shield it from UV rays.
The polyphenols in tea can boost bone mineral density and make them stronger.
Prevents Blood Clots
Fights the Flu
A study demonstrated that those who gargled with tea solution twice daily had a lower risk of contracting flu virus than those who didn’t.
Prevents Cold and Cough
Tea helps prevent symptoms of the common cold like a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, and sore throat. It also warms and comforts the body during cold seasons. The best part is that the effects are almost immediate.
Prevents Kidney Stones
Drinking tea also helps prevent the formation of kidney stones. Research indicates that the phenols in tea bonds to the calcium oxalate in kidney stones and reduces their tendency to clump together into large, painful stones.
Oxalates and polyphenols like catechins also found in tea are effective in checking the growth of the HIV virus.
Prevents Iron Damage
Tea acts as a natural sunscreen by protecting us from the damaging effects of UV rays.
Protects Your Smile
Tea can help combat two types of bacteria: Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus, which are associated with tooth decay.
Tannin in tea is an alkaloid and has strong astringent properties. The astringent action fastens the gums firmly onto the teeth, preventing them from loosening and falling out. If taken without sugar, it neutralizes excess acids in the mouth and destroys germs.
Removes Bad Breath
The astringent properties of tea can even tone up the skin and muscles to give you a younger look.
The catechin content in tea can also keep your skin acne-free. It also protects skin against harmful effects of UV rays.
Tannin prevents hair loss and strengthens hair roots if applied externally. Therefore, many people wash their hair with black tea.
Uses of Tea
There are many ways to use tea to benefit your beauty, home, and garden:
- Soothe tired eyes: Place wet green tea bags over your eyes to reduce puffiness and dark circles.
- Darken grey hair: Brew a strong pot of black tea with herbs for hair like rosemary and sage. Use this as a final wash for your hair after you shampoo to enhance color and to darken grey hair.
- Homemade foot soak: Relax your tired feet into a tea bath, which helps to deodorize them and cure fungal infections.
- Cleaning solution: Wipe your floors and mirrors with a cloth dipped in tea for a perfect shine.
- Fertilize plants: Pour a few cups of strong brew into your compost heap to enrich it.
Side Effects of Tea
While most research on tea is positive, like with any other addition to your diet, don’t consume it in excessive amounts. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Addictive quality: This ancient beverage is addictive and makes you habituated to the external stimulant. Therefore, in absence of it, you may feel weak and worn out as your own energy level drops down below normal and you will eventually want more.
- Organ damage: The alkaloids, tannin, and caffeine in tea can have harmful effects in the long run and can even damage the liver and lungs if excessively consumed. This harmful effect can be minimized by adding lemon/lime juice or milk in your tea.
- Appetite suppressant: It also kills the appetite.
- Interferes with sleep: If taken in excess or before sleep, it can cause severe sleeplessness and resultant headaches.